Should Jews Read Homer?

Despite extensive similarities, few readers have studied Genesis together with the Odyssey in hopes of illuminating the human condition. What lies waiting to be discovered?

Odysseus embraces his wife Penelope on returning to Ithaca. Culture Club/Getty Images.

Odysseus embraces his wife Penelope on returning to Ithaca. Culture Club/Getty Images.

Observation
Jan. 5 2022
About the author

Jacob Howland is McFarlin professor of philosophy (emeritus) at the University of Tulsa. His research focuses on ancient Greek philosophy, history, epic, and tragedy; the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud; Kierkegaard; and literary and philosophical responses to the Holocaust and Soviet totalitarianism.

This essay is the first in a six-part series by Jacob Howland on Homer and the Hebrew Bible. Historians of Western intellectual culture sometimes compare “Jerusalem,” or the biblical traditions that erupt into history at Sinai, with “Athens,” the city where Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle sought human wisdom through the exercise of the human mind. In this series, Howland invites a different comparison. Rather than comparing later prophets to philosophers, he looks back at yet earlier cultural cornerstones set at the very foundations of Hebraic and Greek civilizations. Future installments in Howland’s series will arrive monthly. —The Editors

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More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Homer, Spinoza